The World Bank is losing influence in Cambodia to “emerging donors” and making no major headway in stemming corruption, the Bank’s Independent Evaluation Groups said in a report released Wednesday.
Specifically focused on the World Bank’s 2007 anti-corruption initiative through 2010, the report uses six countries—including Cambodia—as case studies. The other countries are Azerbaijan, Bangladesh, Guatemala, Liberia and Moldova.
“The evaluation found no cases where Bank programs effectively addressed systemic corruption or deep-seated government pathologies, such as the distribution of public goods on the basis of loyalty,” the report said.
“The Bank’s ability to influence macro-level governance was limited in a number of ways. For instance, in some countries the Bank was becoming a more marginal development partner with less influence on policy dialogue,” it added.
The report comes amid a decision by the World Bank to freeze all new lending to Cambodia in protest of a controversial real estate project that has forced thousands of mostly poor Phnom Penh families out of their homes.
According to the report, the Bank was losing influence in Cambodia thanks in particular to Cambodia’s “significant alternative sources of funds.”
Those “emerging donors,” it said, were giving Cambodia an incentive to delay the Bank’s anticorruption efforts.
The report mentions none of those donors by name.
Numerous local human rights groups have lamented the mounting influence of China, which recently became the country’s largest investor.
Indeed, when the Bank last month confirmed that it had put a hold on all new loans to Cambodia, ruling party lawmakers said the government would simply turn to its other donors–including China–to make up the difference.
The World Bank has supported anticorruption bodies in a number of countries, but with “limited impact,” the report notes.
“This evaluation concluded that the risks that such bodies would investigate and prosecute corrupt acts on a partisan basis were often too great,” it said.
“Even when the Bank was cognizant of these risks (in Cambodia), it faced pressures to engage.”
Annual rankings regularly name Cambodia among the most corrupt countries in the world. And while Cambodia’s Anticorruption Unit has taken on some high-profile cases since taking force a year ago, critics say its enabling legislation fails to guarantee its independence.
Local World Bank officials could not immediately be reached for comment.